Southern California retail stores experienced a myriad of smash-and-grab-style robberies throughout January, with evidence indicating the trend may be increasing.
The style of robbery is usually done in organized groups of 2 to 5 people who will quickly enter a retail business, break through glass display cases to grab merchandise, and flee before police can even be called, or at least before they arrive.
In Orange County, a Newport Beach-based jewelry store near fashion island was a victim of a smash-and-grab robbery on Jan. 24, after four suspects wearing hoodies, masks, and gloves stormed inside and used hammers to shatter the display cases. The thieves then ran out and made off in a black getaway vehicle.
Just two days later, three thieves entered a Fountain Valley T-Mobile store, ripping thousands of dollars in iPhones and Apple Watches off their display cases and running outside where they were spotted by police officers who happened to be in the area. Officers were able to catch one of the burglars, though the other two made off in a getaway car in the parking lot. The man caught was Albert Alexander Murkison, 20, of San Jacinto, according to authorities.
In San Diego County, an Escondido jewelry store was looted early in the morning on Jan. 26 after two thieves rammed their vehicle through the store’s front glass. The white Volkswagen used as a battering ram is also believed to have been stolen. The masked thieves broke the display cases using an ax and made off with jewelry and the owner’s work tools.
In Los Angeles County, a Studio City Lululemon store had four thieves—described as two men and two women—steal approximately $72,000 in merchandise from the store on Jan. 19 during a smash and grab robbery and then left in a getaway vehicle. Police were able to track the vehicle onto the 5 freeway where it crashed and all four suspects were arrested.
A few days earlier in Los Angeles, officers responded to a call at a jewelry store in the Westfield Topanga & The Village Shopping Mall on Jan. 14 where five masked suspects went inside and used a spray—possibly bear or pepper spray—on the employees. Then as one of the looters was about to shatter a display case with a baseball bat, one of the store owners pulled a gun and opened fire. No one was injured and the thieves took off running without any merchandise.
In San Bernardino County, four men entered a jewelry store in Upland on Dec. 30 and deployed bear spray on people inside the store. When the owner brandished his firearm, the suspects fled in their getaway vehicle. Police were able to identify the suspects: Jonathon Williamson, 36, from Upland; Dalon La Flora, 29, a Los Angeles parolee; Gerald Kay, 30, a Fontana parolee; and Jahaad Crawford, 30, a man on federal probation with an outstanding warrant.
It’s hard to say exactly how many smash-and-grab crimes have been occurring, due to some police departments not differentiating smash-and-grabs from other robbery and burglary reports.